11) Billy King. Power is the first word of these rankings, and there’s no doubt King’s got it. At every turn, the Nets have stood in King’s court: they built this team with their aspirations as much as he did with his moves. Kidd’s strikeout in his swing for power confirmed it: King’s rock-solid in this organization.
Even if he won’t wage any media-fueled wars on the record like his Russian boss, choosing to take the high road even as Kidd tried to steal his job and Paul Pierce accused the Nets of choosing cost-cutting over championship-contending, he’ll continue plugging along with day-to-day tasks towards the 2016 free agency bonanza, which will be his next great test. With four seasons under his belt in Brooklyn, can he entice major free agents into hopping on board? -D.K.
12) Mirza Teletovic. I love hearing Jim Spanarkel swoon about Mirza’s ability to prepare himself for a jumper before he even catches the ball, firing it off fast. Like, really fast.
There’s no doubt Teletovic has gotten more and more comfortable as a spot-up shooter over the last two seasons with regular playing time, and now he’s even expanding his game in other ways.
He’s the clear backup to Kevin Garnett right now — and that’s a pivotal role. Expect to see him improve noticeably this season. -D.S.
13) J.R. Smith. Only fair that we put him right below Mirza Teletovic, who is what you get when J.R. Smith is raised in war-torn Bosnia. -D.K.
14) Derek Fisher. I’m shocked — shocked, I say — the Knicks hired a first-year coach mere months removed from playing for an NBA playoff team a season after the Nets did it. Really, you knew Phil Jackson would bring in a triangle pawn to install and manage his principles. I just have no idea how it’s going to work out.
The early returns on the Knicks’ system are mixed, with the expected growing pains and devolution to Melo-centric iso-ball. It hurts that Jose Calderon is out, but I have a feeling Fisher is self-aware enough and can relate to players to a degree that they might actually buy in to what he’s selling.
But I’m getting my popcorn ready for when Fisher follows in Kidd’s footsteps and tries to make a power play against Dolan. -D.S.
15) Jose Calderon. It’s a shame for the Knicks that he strained his calf, because he’s such an underrated pickup for them. His defense aside, Calderon is an excellent game manager with a dead-eye touch from three-point range and the free throw line. Also, he owns a pig farm. -D.K.
16) Mason Plumlee. Mason Plumlee simultaneously got a lot of credit and guff thanks to his presence on Team USA this summer, with some ascribing his inclusion to a stout defensive ability and others writing it off as further Krzyzewski Dukie cronyism. I’ve never thought of Plumlee as much of a defensive stalwart, save for his ferocious game-saving block of LeBron James last season, but he remains a good-upside insurance policy for Brook Lopez’s increasingly worrisome foot, and his injection of athleticism definitely changes the way he plays when he comes on the court. -D.S.
17) Iman Shumpert.
“Hey, Iman, you know what time it is?”
“Time for you to get a hat with a clock on it.” -D.S.
Iman Shumpert is wearing a clock hat. pic.twitter.com/szznEUv4Qd
— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) October 21, 2014
(Head over to Posting and Toasting for some critical investigative reporting.)
18) Jason Smith. Jason Smith is probably best known for his vicious flagrant-2 takedown of Blake Griffin a couple of years ago, but his relative anonymity in New Orleans turned his perception from decent-defensively, efficient-offensively big to backup-minutes-eating white guy. I don’t know if people think much of him in New York, but you can do worse for a frontcourt that, again, includes Andrea Bargnani. -D.S.
19) Tim Hardaway, Jr. He did shoot his way into a team-high 20 points in their last loss, and he’s one of their legitimately good, young pieces. So they’ll probably trade him. -D.K.
20) Alan Anderson. I like this Alan Anderson who hits all his threes and talks crap to Reggie Jackson in the third game of the season while up many, many points over an unprecedentedly injured Thunder team.
I like the Alan Anderson who indiscriminately drives baseline on every possession and is terrible at running the offense as a shoehorned point guard.
Anyway, he seemed to be somewhat of an afterthought in a tumultuous offseason, but he’s still there. Scrutinizing apples, for some reason. -D.S.